Thursday, December 06, 2007

Human Dignity and Health Care Ethics

Of the several themes one could note in reviewing your host's Byzantine rambles is a concern for human dignity. The very fact of God as our creator and redeemer reveals a concrete dignity to each human being. The assault on Catholicism specifically, Christianity in general, and religion in principle, entails a denigration of humanity in weakening appreciation (and even comprehension) of human dignity. A world without God is a world adrift.

This concern is not unique to yours truly, of course; it is central to the teachings of Pope Benedict, John Paul the Great, and a host of other Christian theologians (including Orthodox, as well as Catholic) and other important thinkers. Thus, I would direct your attention to MercatorNet , which reviews Professor Margaret Somerville's book The Ethical Imagination. Michael Cook, editor of MercatorNet and reviewer of the book, notes:

Unhappily, too few people acknowledge the deep moral seriousness of bioethical debates. Compared to global warming, the obesity epidemic, and Hollywood strikes, embryos and euthanasia are also-rans. Consequently, most of us go with the flow and end up supporting the whacky views of the professionals. But Somerville somehow manages to rouse people from their bioethical slumber and stirs their consciences. So her book deserves the close attention of anyone who treasures human dignity.

What makes Professor Somerville so hard for relativists and materialists to refute is that she does not ground her views in Faith. Her reasoned and unbiased arguments in recognizing the need for objective truth are grounded in observation and analysis, not in appeals to authority.

Her first concern is to establish that our pluralistic societies need to establish common ethical principles. But her "shared ethics" is not a least common denominator, or moral relativism in mufti. It means discovering what everyone agrees is inherently wrong, not just on the basis of reason, but also of imagination, spirituality, creativity and reverence for the "secular sacred". So "shared ethics", it turns out, is basically a right-brain approach to the traditional concept of "human nature".

While there will be much that the reader can ponder or disagree with in Professor Somerville's work, it deserves a place on the bookshelf.

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